Friday, May 31, 2013

Springtime vegetable tart

Another winner from Hannaford's Fresh magazine.  I made several changes, including using a large tortilla for the shell instead of pie crust.  I've been doing that more and more lately, trying to avoid the heaviness of pastry for dinner!  If I made it for company, I'd probably make my regular pie crust instead of using the tortilla.  Either way, I wouldn't be using a store-bought pastry like the one they suggest, sorry.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dora the Explorer hosts a birthday party!

Katherine, with her new baby sister Julianna
Kids Party World sent me a party-in-a-box recently, which we decided needed to be tested out properly on our granddaughter Katherine, who is just turning 5 and is definitely a fan of all things Dora.  Also of all things princess, pony, ballet, littlest pet shop, and a whole lot of other topics as well.  Fortunately, many of these other interests of hers could have been equally well handled by Kids Party World!

I think you'll be impressed by the wide selection of themes and specific supplies available at their website.  As you can see from the shot above, we received tableware, decorations, toys, stickers, confetti, and a fabulous poster to hang where the kids can have their picture taken with Dora!  More pictures will be coming once we've had the party!

As regards FTC disclosure guidelines: I have received selection of Dora the Explorer party supplies free of charge from Kids Party World in order to write a review.  I have not been paid for my endorsement as it pertains to the products received.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


I made these macaroons recently, and I just wasn't thrilled with them.  No matter how long I left them in the oven, I just couldn't get them dried out properly.  I decided that the culprit was just too many egg whites.  Other recipes that I've seen, including Paula Deen's, use only half the egg whites of this one, so I'm back to the drawing board.  I'll probably try Paula's next.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Stuffed portabella mushrooms that I actually like

Don't hate me.  I have just never been a fan of those huge meaty mushrooms, and certainly not as a substitute for actual meat.  Still, I have wanted to like them, so I continue to experiment.  I like them much better when they've been chopped up into something, but that sort of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

Finally, I found this stuffed recipe that I really like, thanks to Hannaford's Fresh magazine.  A lot of the stuffing is actually taken up with additional mushrooms.  That's not cannibalism, is it?

Friday, May 24, 2013


via TheMetaPicture and DogHouseDiaries

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lamb and chorizo cassoulet

Serve this with something green!  And with a roll.  Even though you'll get more than enough starch from the beans, you'll definitely want something with which to sop up any sauce left on your plate or in your bowl.  We put it in a bowl and treat it like a really really thick stew.

Lamb and Chorizo Cassoulet

Olive oil
8 oz lamb
4 oz chorizo
Onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 c dry white wine
8 oz tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
2 t fresh thyme leaves
3 cans (15 oz) white beans (like great northern or small white)

Turn on the oven to 300 and set rack on lowest level.  Cut the lamb into cubes and the chorizo into thin diagonal slices.  Brown in a Dutch oven in olive oil.  Remove meat and set aside.

Saute the onions and garlic until barely tender.  Add the wine and scrape up browned bits.  Stir in the tomato sauce, herbs, and white beans.  Return the meat to the pot, nestling it part way into the bean mixture.  Cover with foil and the lid and place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Beef and broccoli stir fry

This one is so easy that I almost hesitate to share it.  Almost :-)

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

4 parts hoisin sauce
1 part Asian chill-garlic sauce
2 parts soy sauce
Up to 4 parts water

2 heads of broccoli
2 - 3 carrots

Vegetable oil
1 lb flank steak, sliced, or other lean sliced steak
1 T fresh ginger, minced
Sesame seeds for garnish

Mix the hoisin sauce through the water and set aside.  To make enough sauce to thoroughly coat the amount of vegetables and meat listed here, start with 1/4 c hoisin sauce.

Cut up the vegetables into bite-sized pieces and steam them for a few minutes until tender.  Set aside.  Heat some oil in a wok and brown the meat quickly.  Remove and set it aside.  Add the vegetables and the ginger to the pot and stir fry until heated through.  Add the meat and the sauce mixture and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, just a few minutes.  Divide into bowls and garnish with sesame seeds.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Carbonara with ham and peas

Pasta Carbonara can be simple or complex, but we just prefer it totally overloaded with good stuff.  I recently made it with left over ham, but left over chicken would be good too.

Pasta Carbonara

1 lb spaghetti
Salted water

3 cloves of garlic
Bacon grease or oil
1/2 c white wine
1 lb of diced pre-cooked ham or chicken
3 eggs
1 1/2 to 2 c grated Parmesan cheese

Start the water for the pasta.  In a small skillet, saute the garlic until light gold and then add the wine.  Simmer for a few minutes until slightly reduced.  Add the meat and heat through.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and cheese together.  Add the hot ingredients from the skillet and stir together.  Cover with plastic and microwave on medium for a few minutes, stirring, until the eggs have set. [Note: it is not traditional to do this, but I cannot eat eggs that are undercooked without a trip to the emergency room]

Drain the pasta, reserving some of the pasta water.  Return the pasta to the pot, stir in the cheese and meat mixture over very low heat, and add a bit of pasta water to make a moist sauce.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tuscan garlic chicken pasta

I found this recipe in an issue of Cook's Country, and chased it down online here at  I made a few modifications, adding the lemon juice and the pasta water to the skillet in order to reclaim all the browned bits from the chicken.  Other than that, I followed it exactly!

Monday, May 13, 2013

French-style chicken in a pot

I've been a fan of slow-cooked, braised, or crock pot chicken for forever.  So when I saw Cook's Illustrated showing off how to stack everything for the whole meal into the Dutch oven properly for braising, I was sold.  Get this...the stuffing goes into parchment tubes that you roll and twist, and it gets cooked right along with everything else!

Make your favorite stuffing first and twist it up.  Set it aside.  Brown the chicken (I brined mine for 1 hour beforehand), and set it aside too.  Place your root vegetables and aromatics in the bottom of the pot.  Add enough broth to stop 1/2 inch short of the top of the vegetables.  Place the stuffing rolls and the chicken legs (if using...I didn't) in the next layer, and rest the chicken breasts on top.  Cover with foil and the lid and pop it into a 300 oven for 60 to 75 minutes.

CI has you using skin-on chicken and then discarding it just before serving.  I decided to pass on the skin, and that's one of the reasons I chose to brine my birds.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

Traditional whole wheat bread

I have mentioned before how much I love my bread machine, but I also love love love making bread the traditional way when time allows.  I use the sponge method, which means that back in the day, I was letting the sponge rise for 45 minutes, and then letting the bread rise three more times!  Well, I've recently come to the conclusion that the more efficient yeast available today (the only thing I can easily get without a special trip) doesn't do as well with four total risings.  I am ashamed to admit that I've cut back to three total.

But you know what?  My bread really hasn't seemed to have suffered.

So even though I've tried other, rapid rise, and bread all time favorite is this adaptation of the traditional method.  Your mileage may vary.  Just sayin...

Whole Wheat Yeast Bread
Makes 2 standard sized loaves

3 c lukewarm water (85 - 105 degrees)
1 1/2 T dry yeast (2 packages)
2 - 4 T sweetener (brown sugar, honey, molasses)
1 c dry milk powder
3 c whole wheat flour
1 c white bread flour

Part two:
4 t salt
1/3 c fat (oil or butter)
2 c whole wheat flour
1 c white bread flour
Up to 1 c white bread flour for kneading

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water.  Stir in the sweetener and milk powder.   Stir in the flour one cup at a time, using a brisk circular folding motion.  Beat the whole mass well for about 100 strokes.  Cover with a wet linen towel and allow to rise for 45 minutes in a warm spot.

Fold in the salt and fat.  Fold in the additional 3 cups of flour until the dough begins to come away from the side of the bowl.  Knead on a floured surface, using up to 1 additional cup of flour.  Knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Return the dough to the bowl.  Spray the surface with cooking spray if desired and cover.  Allow to rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.  Punch the dough down and fold it into a ball.  Remove from the bowl onto the kneading surface (most likely no more flour will be needed).  Cut into two pieces and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Knead lightly and shape into loaves.  Place each into a sprayed loaf pan if desired.  Allow to rise for 45 minutes.  Brush the tops with an egg wash or milk if desired, and bake at 350 for about an hour.  Remove from the pans to cool.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cook's best friend

This came to me in an email with no attribution.  Anyone know who created it?

Monday, May 6, 2013

The trick to crispy home fries

Crispy Home Fries that aren't raw in the middle and burned on the outsides.  Forget the skillet (except for pre-cooking the bacon); instead, par-boil the chopped potatoes for just a minute with a dash of baking soda!  Yup, baking soda.  It does wonderful things to the outsides of the cubes, making them starchy and mushy so they crisp up better in the oven.

Using a super-hot oven, roast the potatoes on a pre-heated rimmed sheet in bacon grease.  Don't add the onions until half way through the roasting, and stir in the crumbled bacon at the end.  Voila!  They are magnificent.  You can get Cook's Illustrated's recipe here, or you can just do what everyone else does and wing it.  But definitely use these suggestions...these are the best home fries I ever made!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Spicy shrimp

Delicious and easy!  I really like starting with raw shrimp, but I'm thrilled that our grocery store gets a brand that has already been slit and deveined!  Love the shells...don't like cutting the vein out.  Ick.

We had these shrimp with jasmine rice and roasted sliced Brussels sprouts.

Spicy Shrimp

1 lb jumbo shrimp
Vegetable oil
2 T butter, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 c white wine
1/3 c clam juice or seafood stock
1 T hot sauce (I used sriracha)

Dry the shrimp off with paper towels and season them with salt.  Heat a bit of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Cook the shrimp on one side for about a minute; aim for brown spots.  Remove to a plate.

Cook garlic in 1 T butter over medium heat, just until fragrant.  Stir in liquids and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits.  Cook until sauce is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Return shrimp to skillet, hit with hot sauce and allow to simmer for about 2 minutes.  Off heat, stir in 1 T butter and serve. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The best buttermilk biscuits

There are so many variations on Buttermilk Biscuits that it's not even funny.  Want to make the very best?  Then follow my recipe :-)

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups flour
1 t sugar
1 T baking powder
3/4 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
8 T (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 c buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400.  In a large bowl or food processor, combine flour through salt.  Cut in the butter with your fingers or processor until mixture looks like crumbs.  Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk, stirring just until it comes together.  Pour out onto a piece of parchment paper and knead a few times.  Fold dough over on itself 4 to 5 times and form into a rectangle.  Cut into 12 pieces and round corners gently with hands.  Place each biscuit into a sprayed muffin cup.  You can bake them on the parchment paper, but they may fall over.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until light gold on top. 

Note - can also be cut into rounds or dropped by spoonfuls if desired.